Monday, December 12, 2005

Communities of practice

There is a webcast with a presentation by
Verna Allee on value creating network. The good thing is that it takes an hour, but you can click on subparts, and the whole webcast is on transcript as well (I ended up reading rather than listening). There are some really interesting parts related to communities of practice.

First she makes important distinctions between different social networks like information networks, affiliation networks, and purpose networks like knowledge networks and communities of practice; whereas social network analysis has not really made this distinction. She recalls an organisation where everyone was so excited about communities of practice that they started calling everything a CoP (hm very recognisable!). She distinguishes CoPs from knowledge networks since CoPs have a shared domain, a joint enterprise flowing from a joint understanding of the practice, which comes from within. So there is a whole educational process needed to make people understand the difference. She mentions that CoPs are very popular because it seems to build people's skills to survive in a networked society. A different set of skills than needed for survival in a hierarchical organisation.

I like the stricter definition, but if you apply it strictly, I wonder if multistakeholder networks would qualify for CoPs (because of a wide variety of practices and maybe very uneven practices) or are more often knowledge networks (and then what are the different implications for supporting or structuring it?). So far I tried to avoid looking at the name but rather whether CoP theory could help in any way to understand what's going on in a network or CoP. (??)

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